Arianna Huffington's new book, Right Is Wrong, should revive interest in numerous sins of omission and commission on the part of the mainstream media in the past few years. One episode -- dating from three years ago this month -- that I discuss briefly in my new book on Iraq and the media gets better play in her book.
You remember the Downing Street Memo? That formerly secret British document which revealed that almost a year before the attack on Iraq the British government had become convinced that the Bushites had "fixed" the intelligence to mislead everyone into supporting an invasion?
It became public and widely reported in the overseas press and on blogs in the U.S. (and at my own Editor & Publisher, one of the few MSM spots to cover it early on).
Arianna in her book contrasts that non-coverage in May with the massive attention lavished on the Natalee Holloway disappearance and the Michael Jackson child molesting trial. She even publishes a network-by-network scorecard.
For example, ABC News had nothing on the memo, 42 segments on Natalee, 121 pieces on Jacko. CBS News was even worse, while NBC did better (six whole segments on the memo). For News had 10 segments mentioning the memo -- but 148 on Natalee and 286 on Jacko.
Arianna then hits the network execs' tired old argument that "we're just giving the people what they want." Talk about "fixed intelligence"!
Later in the book, in her takedown of Tim Russert, she watches former GOP chief Ken Mehlman on Meet the Press on May 22, 2005, assert, referring to the British memo, "that report has been discredited by everyone else who's looked at it since then."
Russert actually challenges him on this, saying that the memo's authenticity has not been discredited. Mehlman replies: "The fact that the intelligence was somehow 'fixed' have been totally discredited by everyone who's looked at it." With that, "Bulldog Russert just gave up."
Of course, nothing since then has either discredited the memo -- nor the view that the intelligence was, indeed, fixed.
Greg Mitchell's new book is So Wrong for So Long: How the Press, the Pundits -- and the President -- Fails on Iraq. It features a preface by Bruce Springsteen, and has been hailed by Bill Moyers, Glenn Greenwald and others.